Tuesday, January 21, 2014

CD Odyssey Disc 586: Supertramp

For the second straight review, my random album also represents the last review in my collection for a particular artist – this time it is Supertramp.  I’d like to say I saved the best for last but that would be a lie.

Disc 586 is….Even in the Quietest Moments…
Artist: Supertramp

Year of Release: 1977

What’s up with the Cover? A piano left out in the snow.  The view is impressive and one that might inspire the pianist’s playing, but all that snow is definitely going to affect the tuning.  I would say if you need to have the piano exactly there, build a gazebo.

How I Came To Know It: This was an album I bought from our friend Gord when he was getting rid of his CD collection.  It was an easy way to flesh out my collection, and since I knew the hit, “Give A Little Bit” from the radio days of my youth, I took a chance on it.

How It Stacks Up:  I have three Supertramp albums, and by far this is the worst of them.
Also, as this is the last album left to review of this particular band, here’s a quick recap of how I feel about their discography, or at least the portion of their discography in my collection:
  1. Breakfast in America: 4 stars (reviewed at Disc 341)
  2. Crime of the Century: 4 stars (reviewed recently at Disc 558)
  3. Even in the Quietest Moments: 2 stars (reviewed right here)
Rating:  2 stars

Beware of an album with ellipses in the title – it will be prone to ramble. Also, given this is a Supertramp review you will already be starting with a significant amount of ramble, so the margin for error will be limited.

As you can see from my rankings above, I very much enjoyed my other two Supertramp albums, and with “Even in the Quietest Moments” coming right between them chronologically you’d expect things to go well.  Yeah, well – not so much.

This album has its moments, one of which fittingly is the title track, which has Supertramp doing what they do best – a beautiful blend of guitar and piano with vocals questioning the meaning of it all.

Give a Little Bit” was a big radio hit, and it is a pretty fine little pop song.  If it is a bit on the hippy dippy side, we can forgive that since it was released in 1977. It also has one of those instantly recognizable opening riffs that sound easy to accomplish, but are devilishly difficult to actually come up with.

Apart from these songs, however, “Even in the Quietest Moments” just doesn’t have enough actual moments, quiet or otherwise.

Most of the songs don’t go anywhere melodically, they just sort of plod along while the band sings about sad and wan topics that had me wishing I was listening to the Carpenters.  When listening to Supertramp makes you wish you were listening to the Carpenters, you know you’ve got a pretty unimpressive Supertramp album on your hands.

The band’s hallmarks are still there.  They still have songs heavily reliant on vocals and piano, with an effort to layer other sounds in as well.  The songs themselves have a progressive quality, and aren’t afraid to change up two or three times as they progress.  However, on other Supertramp albums I’ve heard the changes slowly build the song up, whereas on “Even in the Quietest Moments” they just lurch about from one trite line to the next without ever feeling like they are going anywhere.

As with most Supertramp albums, this one doesn’t have a lot of songs, but the ones that it does have take their time to get their point across.  “Even in the Quietest Moments” only has seven tracks and four of them are over six minutes long.  I am fine with this if it is worthwhile (the title track clocks in at 6:29 and it is a great track), but when a song is boring, making it longer just makes it that much more interminable (pun intended).

The worst offender is “Fool’s Overture.”  The final track on the album, it is over ten minutes long and along the way features a meandering piano introduction for the first two minutes.  A river also meanders of course, but even that eventually gets somewhere.  The piano’s destination in “Fool’s Overture” is the sound of your Grandma’s clock chiming, and a sample of Winston Churchill giving his “We Will Never Surrender” speech before the song finally gets moving at about 3:30.  The resulting riff reminded me of Fashion TV’s credits (although it wasn’t) but it is the kind of song that is best for playing over the credits of something else.

When “Even in the Quietest Moments” tries to be profound, it sounds overwrought and when it tries to be thoughtful it sounds boring and faded.  The title track manages to capture some of the band’s usual magic and “Give A Little Bit” gives at least a little bit, but it is too little of a good thing.  Most of the time this record had me wishing I was hearing either “Crime of the Century” or “Breakfast in America.”

Best tracks:   Give a Little Bit, Even in the Quietest Moments

No comments: